MEMORY CORK • by Whitney L. Evans

Once a month, I force myself to rummage through my purse and clean it out. I like to think of myself as a busy, worldly kind of gal and I accumulate tons of stuff in between cleanings; from gum wrappers, to ATM receipts, to loose change, the bottom of my purse becomes a safe haven for many random items.

This month I choose a rainy Saturday afternoon to release countless things from the depths of my bag. Slews of objects pour out and clatter onto the marble countertop in the kitchen. I count nearly twenty receipts, seven bobby pins, mascara and an empty tube of lipstick. I marvel at the collection of junk I’ve accumulated in 30 quick days.

Before the receipts get acquainted with the bottom of the wastebasket, I see a movie stub has inadvertently latched itself on to the back of a grocery store receipt. I gently peel the stub free and place it far away from the trash pile. I am usually much more careful about protecting my stubs. At last count, there were 212 stubs, ranging from smoky gray to vermilion, some small squares, others long rectangles, with some torn in half. Certain stubs are so faded the words are hard to decipher. They are pinned tightly to a cork board, side by side, with no pattern or rhythm, just a collection of films. At this point in time, very little cork shows through.

I’ve never thought of myself as artistic, yet I had this ingenious idea to take my hordes of movie stubs, carefully attach them to a board, and once it’s complted hang this mural in the living room of my first home. This reflection of entertainment, an ever present reminder of the joys film has brought to my life.

The movie stub collage plays like an homage to my childhood. First are the toddler days and the magic of seeing Honey We Shrunk the Kids. Next up is the wonder years of elementary school and the continued excitement of Disney, from The Lion King to Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin. Then we venture into the teenage years, a shallow time where I had to see every movie starring someone from the cast of Dawson’s Creek. This is followed by college where life became more serious but the movie choices stayed lighthearted. And no I am not ashamed to prominently display three Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban stubs right smack in the middle of my showpiece.

My parents think my stub love affair is odd. “Look at all the time you’ve wasted going to the movies,” my dad will say to me, when he catches me adding to my collection. Undoubtedly an insinuation about my lack of a bustling social life.

I don’t consider travelling to Oz or meeting with Don Corleone a waste of time. Although I never viewed these masterpieces in a theater, they still speak to me in a way nothing else ever has. The sights of the shimmering red slippers, sunny yellow brick road and perfectly hued blue dress, showed me the art of color, as I used the film to learn the colors of the rainbow. While the beauty in The Godfather is far less pronounced, it never fails to captivate and invite those musings of good versus evil and greed versus need. Contemplations I, like many others, entertain often.

For a few hours, reality is left behind and a fantastical world is presented on a golden screen. This world might be familiar, or it could be incredibly absurd. To me the power of cinema is undeniable, a pure and utter kind of bliss.

With my impending move to my new home, I’ve made the finalization of my board a top priority. I even ventured to three movies this past week. My viewing last night, a French thriller only playing at the indie theater downtown, turned into a chance meeting with an extraordinarily charming out of towner. We collided while attempting to butter our popcorn and his ever so awkward attempts at helping me clean my now butter drenched jacket were incredibly endearing. Both by our lonesome, we decided to sit next to one another.

He asked me out for coffee afterwards and we stayed at the tiny café, laughing and learning about one another for hours. We talked of films mostly, delving into the intricacies of all the classics and impersonating our favorite characters along the way. It was such a shame our interlude was so short lived, as he had an early flight to catch, but it was a night that will stay with me forever.

Thoughts of his exaggerated James Bond impersonation can’t help but make me smile as I start affixing the stubs to their new home. It’s not until I’ve added the latest Steven Spielberg gem, that it finally hits me. In my state of delirious happiness last night, I forgot about my stub.

I begin to frantically search through my now mostly empty purse but it’s gone. I must have left my stub in my companion’s jacket pocket. After the butter debacle, he graciously offered me his. The realization hits me hard. I’ve never lost a stub. Ever.

I think first of reaching out to him, we did exchange emails. But then I start to soften at the idea of this virtual stranger happening upon my life, leaving an indelible mark on my soul and taking one of my stubs away with him.

I’ve spent countless hours absorbing and analyzing the things I see on a screen, while taking very little time to truly see the things that are all around me every day. In one perfect evening, I experienced something that would rival any of the all-time great love affairs on film.

Looking at the cluttered board, my eyes are instantly drawn to the one tiny piece of cork left unused.  Although I smile, a tear forms at the corner of my eye because it looks perfectly complete.

Whitney L. Evans writes in Pennsylvania, USA.

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